If starting-up is my objective, which city should I move to in Canada?

I am currently in the US on H1 and pretty much have the same story as everyone regarding my decision to get the Canadian PR. In US, I don’t have the flexibility to professionally pursue anything that doesn’t have the word ‘software engineer’ in it, since that’s the area I am academically trained in (No H1B visa for me in any other area).
I got my Canadian PR about a month back, and, right now I am very seriously pondering on starting a tech start-up in a very niche domain, and would like to know which city in Canada would be the best option. In US, we have the luxury of many choices viz. the Bay Area, Seattle, Austin, the Raleigh area, the NYC area etc. All these are pretty self-sufficient and have exciting unicorns coming out of them.
I know instinctively that the city I am looking at in Canada is Toronto, which seemingly has the best start-up ecosystem, VCs, access to tech talent and general connectivity to world. I am ruling out Montreal, since I don’t speak French. I am also ruling out Waterloo, since the they don’t seem to have any benefit that matches Toronto apart from may be, engineering talent. Also, not considering any Alberta cities, for they don’t have any major startups (they seem mainly about oil etc).
But, what about Vancouver? I really don’t have much data on that city. They seemingly have impressive tech talent and a good number of major US tech companies present. The weather is hands down the best in the country. And, it’s drivable to Seattle, and a quick flight away from the Bay Area (where most VCs lounge around). But comparatively, do these benefits weigh over Toronto, which has a thriving startup community? I don’t know how to quantify and compare both cities as far as creating a startup is concerned.
People who have started-up in either or both cities, please pass on the wisdom. Many thanks for the advices.
PS: I am an Indian national, 9 years in US (study + work), currently a software engineer in Seattle at a major tech company.

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Canada is no USA in terms of tech opportunities, but she fares pretty well. Check the following locations in no particular order:

  • Vancouver
  • Montreal (especially if you’re into AI)
  • Toronto (FinTech and other things)
  • Waterloo (Lots of investment and growth here)
  • Ottawa - Kanata

French is nice to have in Quebec, but as far as I have seen this is not a problem with tech companies.

Do not be too focused on the location. There are people doing amazing things all over the country - you can just start with a place that you will find livable and maximizes your opportunities to get started. Also there are startups who have relocated to the bay area (and elsewhere in the US) once they take off.

Bottomline - Do not compare the US with Canada. The biggest benefit of the latter is the immigration system. If that’s your priority (and your biggest hindrance in the US), come on over, pick a place to start your journey and don’t sweat out the rest.

Caveat: This information is based on my own research and experience. I’m in the same boat as you and looking to start a business in the future.

P.S. Check my post history for more info on Waterloo. If you have more questions about this town I’d be happy to answer them. Good luck!


Thanks @ak45. I am not sure if you have this information, but is quality tech talent as readily available in Vancouver, as it may be in Toronto?

Hi ABSHK, Just a general anecdotal comment but based on my own experience as a serial entrepreneur … don’t rule out Montreal. French is not as large an impediment as you may think and, depending on your product or service, the French factor can be a big plus when marketing internationally. Montreal has a huge and growing tech sector, particularly in AI as you said, but it also has a considerably lower cost of living, a favorable corporate tax atmosphere and access to a large pool of relatively low cost/highly educated local talent.

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I’m based in Toronto, so I feel Toronto (including Waterloo) is definitely a great place to startup if cost of living is not an issue. Another factor that may be an advantage for KW/GTA and Montreal is the proximity to NYC (depends on what sector your startup is in).

If your startup plans are tech heavy then I wouldn’t discount Waterloo, since it has a good accelerator that benefits from their co-op programs (IIRC, a UW undergrad does a co-op roughly every 6 months, and startups have access to this top notch talent).

Something I realized after looking at some of the successful startups in Canada:
It’s possible to bootstrap and build a sustainable business that grows at a healthy rate, without having to bother about raising VC money
I mention this only because proximity to Bay Area may be crucial initially if you want to raise initial rounds with no other source of revenue / funds.

I took sometime to get a hang of this, because while on H1b, only way to startup or even try an idea by creating a corporate/legal entity, was to raise some funding and figure out immigration stuff later based on that. So this meant, most of the “problems” I thought of solving were things that were not revenue generating per se.

Disclaimer: I’m still a wannabe start-up-er and I don’t know much about the scene in Vancouver/Montreal.

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@hslawd @ntn Thanks, both of you. That definitely helps. Should we create a category on movnorth just for (wanna-be or already) entrepreneurs who have moved to Canada? I think there would be a large, if not substantial, populace that may be interested in that info.
@vik Requesting your input on the main topic question since you started, and are running, movnorth.

I would love to see that and also be a part of it. I’ve been researching and exploring around start-ups too and would like to both contribute and get inputs.

Same here.

This is obviously a great idea and with the massively growing pool of talent moving here it’s about time for this. I just called it “Startups” About the Startups category